Go tide pooling and become a beach scientist. See more pictures of beaches.
TK

Laying out in the sun isn't the only thing to do on a beach vacation. You can create a work of art, perform a science experiment, or investigate the many creatures that we share our shores with.

Beach Image Gallery 

These beach activities are so much fun, you may never have time to get a lie around the beach again!

Follow the links below to learn about fun beach activities:

Down by the Sea Sculpture

Create a lasting memory with a sculptural tribute to your beach vacation.

What is Sand?

Investigate the properties of sand -- there's more to it than meets the eye.

Building Sand Castles

Your sandcastles will be bigger and better with these simple tips. Learn more here.

Tide Pooling

Explore the border zone between ocean and land -- and meet its strange and fascinating residents.

Beach Map Making

Map out the diversity of life you find on the beach with this science activity.

Whale Watching

Here are some tips sure to make whale watching a blast. Find out more here.

Saltwater-Freshwater Experiment

Learn about seawater and freshwater's interesting properties with this experiment.

Keep reading to learn about an art project you can do right on the beach.

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

Down by the Sea Sculpture

She sells seashells ... and makes some sculptures, too. Now you can take a little of the beach home with you by making a "down by the sea" sculpture!

What You'll Need:

  • Shovel
  • Seashells
  • Pail
  • Sea water
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Stick

Step 1: Begin your sculpture by digging a small hole in the sand. Then, place some seashells in the hole so they face up.

Step 2: Fill the pail with sea water and add the Plaster of Paris. Stir this mixture with the stick until it is smooth. Now pour the mixture into the hole. Stop filling the hole when the shells are covered.

Step 3: Once you've done this, wait an hour for the plaster to set. When the plaster is dry, pull the sculpture from the sand and take it home with you. It'll make a great addition to your bedroom!

The next beach activity will show you the world in a grain of sand.

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

What Is Sand?

What is sand? Sand is more than something to make castles from. Discover the mysteries in a handful of sand. Where does sand come from? The sand itself will give you clues.

What You'll Need:

  • Beach sand
  • White paper
  • Magnifying glass
  • Black or dark-colored paper
  • Magnet
  • Small containers
  • Labels
  • Pencil or pen

The next time you hit the beach, sprinkle some sand on a sheet of white paper and look at it closely with a magnifying glass. What kinds of particles do you see? How many different colors do you see?

Sprinkle some sand on black or dark-colored paper. Do particles stand out now that were hard to see on white paper?

You'll also notice dark particles in the sand. Pass a magnet over your sand sample. Many of the dark particles will stick to the magnet. These are iron-rich minerals, such as magnetite.

If you are patient, you can try sorting the sand particles into separate piles!

Sand is made of tiny rock fragments eroded by water. Some of your sand grains are the same color as nearby rocks. You may find a lot of light-colored or even clear particles. Many of these are quartz, a mineral high in silica. Because most sand has a lot of quartz, it is used to manufacture glass.

If you visit beaches in different areas, start a sand collection. Find small, clear bottles or plastic containers. (Some film-developing shops will give you clear film canisters for free.)

Scoop a sample of sand from the beach into a container. Label and date the container. If you have friends living on or visiting other coastlines or sandy shores, ask them to send you sand for your collection.

Now that you've investigated the properties of sand, why not build something fun with it? Read on to find out how.

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

Building Sand Castles

Building a Sand Castle
Building a Sand Castle
TK

Build your private kingdom in the sand -- how long can your sand castle withstand the tides? Find out with this "Building Sand Castles" activity.

Sandcastles are fun. You can make them as small and simple or as large and complex as you like. If you start your castle soon after high tide, you will have all day before the tide returns to sweep your work away.

What You'll Need:

  • Digging tools (stick, small shovel, big metal spoons)
  • Pails of many sizes
  • Plastic food containers of various sizes
  • Beach debris

Step 1: Find a place on wet sand near the high-tide mark and begin. Mark the size of your castle. Use a stick to draw a ring in the sand.

Step 2: With shovels, spoons, or other digging equipment, dig a moat around the castle and pile the sand in the middle of your circle.

Step 3: Wet the sand with sea water until it can stick together. Pat it down firmly, then use your digging tools to carve it.

Step 4: Cut away paths and courtyards. The remaining high mounds will form your towers. Leave a wall around the castle on the inside of the moat.

Step 5: Sculpt towers and chimneys, using buckets and plastic containers as molds. Fill the container with damp sand, pack it down, turn it over, and slap the sides until the molded sand comes out.

Step 5: Gather up shells, sticks, kelp, or other debris and construct castle inhabitants. Bulbs of kelp can be the heads of knights and maidens. Driftwood sticks tied together can be horses. Colored pebbles and beach glass (check for sharp edges) might be jewels in a treasure house.

By the time the tide rolls in, your castle should resist the waves unless it is submerged completely. Return the next day and see if your castle survived.

Keep reading to learn about the fascinating creatures you can discover on the beach.

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

Tide Pooling

Record what you find.
Record what you find.
TK

Learn about the creatures of the rocky tides and keep a record of your investigations with this scientific "tide pooling" activity.

What You'll Need:

  • Local tide table
  • Adult partner
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Guidebook to tidal animals of your area

To plan the best time to visit tide pools, get a local tide table from a sporting goods store or the Internet. Arrive at the tide pools with your adult partner an hour or two before low tide to begin looking as the tide is going out.

Sit near the edge of a large pool to observe animals. The longer you look, the more you will see. While actual species will vary at each shoreline, here are some types of animals you're likely to see:

Sea anemones: These simple animals have tentacles around the mouth to trap food. If you gently touch a tentacle, it will feel sticky. This is caused by tiny stingers too small to pierce your skin but able to sting small prey.

Sea stars: Get flat and watch a sea star in the water moving slowly across the rocks. Can you see the tube feet moving? Sea stars eat mussels, clams, and other shellfish. If you see one with its arms pulled in close and its middle hunched, it's probably eating.

Sea urchins: These close relatives of sea stars look like colorful pincushions. Urchins use their spines for defense as well as to scrape rocks to make round holes to hide in. Can you see long tube feet sticking out between the spines? The urchin uses these to move and to pass food to the mouth on the bottom of the animal.

Crabs: Most tide pool crabs are scavengers. Watch them using their claws to feed. Crabs are usually shy, so be patient and watch for them.

Use your notebook to record what you see and approximately where you see it. You'll notice that some animals live in certain areas of the tidal shore.

A guidebook to tide pool animals will help you identify actual species, and will help you spot animals found only in your area.

The next activity will show you how to map the biological diversity of the beach.

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

Beach Map Making

Map the life of the beach.
Map the life of the beach.
TK

Learn where different shoreline organisms live when you comb the beach and make a map of the results. You'll be surprised at what you find with this scientific beach activity.

What You'll Need:

  • Tide table
  • Large ball of string
  • Adult partner
  • Brightly colored bandannas or scraps of cloth
  • Notebook
  • Yardstick
  • Graph paper

Step 1: Get a tide table from a sporting goods store or the Internet and look up the next convenient low tide. Arrive at a rocky shoreline an hour before low tide.

Step 2: Find a spot above high tide where you can tie one end of a string to a rock, tree, or a stake. Tie a bandanna to the spot so it's visible.

Step 3: Run the string toward the ocean, stopping as close to the water as you can safely go. Use a rock to hold down the other end of the string.

Step 4: Starting at the upper end, furthest from the water, write down the

most common organisms you see. Work your way slowly down the string. When you see different animals, stop at that spot and mark it with another bandanna.

Step 5: Look back to the first marker and estimate how far down you've dropped in elevation. (Estimate the vertical drop, not how far you've walked.) Continue down the string, adding a bandanna each time you see a different organism.

Step 6: When you reach the end of the string, wind the string and retrieve the bandannas. As you wind, measure the distance between markers and write that down in your notebook.

Step 7: Get a large piece of graph paper. Let each square represent one foot of shoreline. Use your measurements of vertical distance and the distance between markers to help you draw the shoreline. Then draw in the animals of each zone.

You can use the same mapping techniques to map sandy shores. Rather than using a string, mark a straight line in the sand.

Not all the animals you can spot along the shore are tiny. Keep reading to learn how you may be able to see some of the largest creatures on the planet!

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

Whale Watching

Whale Watching
Whale Watching
TK

With a little luck and these tips for whale watching, you may be able to spot some of the world's largest animals!

If you're visiting a rocky coastline on the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, you may be able to watch for migrating whales. Ask local inhabitants about whales in the area. (Rugged, rocky areas of the Pacific coast are especially good places to watch for rare Gray whales in late winter and early spring.)

What You'll Need:

  • Warm clothing
  • Binoculars
  • Lunch

Set out early in the morning on a windless, overcast day to a rocky headland that juts out into deep water. Bring binoculars, extra clothing, and snacks or a picnic lunch.

Watch for the blows of spouting whales. A whale blow looks like a puff of smoke at the water's surface.

See if you can identify the whale from its blow. You should also be able to see the whale's dark back.

Use your binoculars to look for tail flukes coming out of the water as the whale dives. (This behavior is called "sounding.") The whales will surface hundreds of yards or more from where you saw them dive.

If you're near a lagoon where whales gather, you may spot interesting whale behavior. Gray whales will "spyhop," lifting their snouts out of the water to the level of their eyes.

If you're lucky, you may see a whale breech -- that is, to leap nearly clear of the water and come down with a splash! No one really knows why whales do this. It may be a courtship ritual, a stress-reliever, a way to shake off parasites, or just plain fun!

Read on to learn about a science experiment you can do with a little water from the sea.

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

Saltwater-Freshwater Experiment

How is seawater different from what comes out of your tap at home? The saltwater of the sea actually has different properties. Try this "Saltwater-Freshwater" experiment to learn what a pinch of salt can do!

What You'll Need:

  • Sea water
  • Bottled tap water
  • Two mixing bowls
  • Bar of pure soap
  • Potato peeler
  • Teaspoon
  • Eggbeater
  • Dish detergent

Next time you're at the seaside, try this experiment to compare salt water to fresh water:

Step 1: Pour two cups of sea water in one bowl and two cups of tap water in another bowl. Use a potato peeler to shave soap flakes from a bar of pure soap.

Step 2: Put a teaspoon of flakes in each bowl. Beat with an eggbeater. Which makes better soapsuds, fresh water or salt water?

Step 3: Clean the bowls and do the same experiment with dish detergent. Is there a difference between the kinds of suds produced?

For more fun activities and beach games, check out:

ABOUT THE ACTIVITY DESIGNERS:

The following activities were designed by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls.

Down by the Sea Sculpture What Is Sand?Building Sandcastles Tide Pooling Beach Map Making Whale Watching Saltwater-Freshwater Experiment